The Concacaf Gold Cup group stage was a learning experience for Gregg Berhalter’s young U.S. men’s national team squad, and the team’ 3-0 record would suggest the group passed some tests along the way.
With the knockout rounds up next, the USMNT will need to shift away from the learning portion of the tournament to the testing phase, and it will be pass-fail the rest of the way. For that reason, it is a good bet that Berhalter starts to shift toward his more experienced players.
Of course, there will be some new blood in the mix to start based on some impressive group stage showings. James Sands is at the top of the list, having made himself an indispensable starter after his group stage showings. Shaq Moore has also been one of the revelations of the Gold Cup, and Berhalter will have a tough decision to make between starting Moore and starting Reggie Cannon, who has recovered from the injury that kept him out of the USMNT’s first two Gold Cup matches.
Daryl Dike and Gianluca Busio had some impressive moments as well, but both struggled in the win against Canada, making it less certain that they will be in the starting lineup on Sunday against Jamaica. There is also some concern about whether Dike will be forced to withdraw after suffering a shoulder injury against Canada.
You also have some veterans who haven’t necessarily lit it up at the Gold Cup. Cristian Roldan had a good second half against Martinique, but had forgettable cameo against Canada, putting his chances of starting against Jamaica into question. Kellyn Acosta hasn’t quite maintained the high level he set at Nations League, but should still have a key role to play against Jamaica.
With all that in mind, here is the starting lineup we could see the USMNT deploying against Jamaica on Sunday, as well as the lineup we would deploy if we were making the final lineup decisions:
Projected USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Jamaica
SBI’s Preferred USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Jamaica
Who will start: Matt Turner
Who should start: Matt Turner
Not a big mystery at goalkeeper, where Turner has been solid in goal.
Who will start: Reggie Cannon, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines
Who should start: Shaq Moore, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines
Sands and Robinson are locks to start in any scenario. It is at fullback where things get interesting.
Moore has had a solid Gold Cup, but if Berhalter is forced to go with a 4-3-3 it can be argued that Reggie Cannon is a better fit and better defender than Moore as a right fullback, whereas Moore was more adept at handling a right wingback deployment. Walker Zimmerman’s injury will likely force Berhalter to shelve the 5-3-2.
At left back, Sam Vines has been solid and has the experience edge on George Bello, who didn’t impress in his start against Martinique.
Who will start: Sebastian Lletget, Cristian Roldan, Kellyn Acosta
Who should start: Eryk Williamson, Kellyn Acosta, Gianluca Busio
Two players who are safe bets to start are Sebastian Lletget and Kellyn Acosta. The question is where will they be deployed?
Lletget has operated strictly as a midfielder at the Gold Cup, but he has played on the forward line in the past and is no stranger to being deployed on the wing. It is something Berhalter should consider as he deals with the absence of wide threats.
The safe bet for Berhalter is the Lletget-Roldan-Acosta midfield, with Acosta in a defensive midfield role. Berhalter knows this trio, and has used them in important matches before.
That being said, Roldan’s Gold Cup hasn’t been a memorable one, and as much as Busio struggled against Canada, he could find more success playing against a Jamaica side that doesn’t boast as strong a collection of central midfielders as the Canadians.
One player who has shown well in his Gold Cup appearances is Eryk Williamson, and he could help bring some defensive bite. Partnering Williamson with Acosta in front of Busio would give the midfield an edge that could serve the USMNT well against Jamaica.
Who will start: Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, Nicholas Gioacchini
Who should start: Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, Sebastian Lletget
Dike’s health status complicates things a bit because if he is healthy he will absolutely be in the mix to start.
Having said that, look for Zardes to step into his more familiar target striker role ahead of Dike in a 4-3-3. Zardes’ superior hold-up play gives him the edge, and he also has experience playing against Jamaica.
Hoppe has impressed every time he has been on the field, and why he isn’t the prototypical wide player, Hoppe has shown a liveliness and skill on the ball to be an effective wide forward option. The only doubt about him being a starter is whether there is a concern about his fitness and if he can give Berhalter 70+ minutes as a starter. Berhalter could decide that Hoppe is a better weapon off the bench, and start Lletget on the left wing.
Then you have the right forward spot, which could go to Nicholas Gioacchini, or Paul Arriola if he is recovered from the injury that has sidelined him since the opening win against Haiti. Gioacchini has been a lively threat in the opportunities he has been given, and could be a problem for Jamaica’s suspect defense.
If trying to maintain possession and dominate the ball is what Berhalter will ultimately be hoping for, then deploying Lletget as a wide forward would serve the dual purposes of giving the USMNT a player who can provide effective service from the wing, and also help free up a midfield spot for someone like Eryk Williamson to provide some added bite and creativity to midfield.
What do you think of our projected lineups? Which would you start? Who are you most excited to see play?
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